Re: RFEP and the Heart of Christianity

Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 12:45:06 EDT

  • Next message: Brian Harper: "RE: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised"

    Good morning Howard,

    Thank you for you detailed response. Its amazing how simply stated
    definitions can clear things up. The RFEP as stated by you now appears much
    less hostile to traditional Christian understanding of God and the World
    than what I had picked up reading the posts on this list.

    So the bottom line appears to be that the RFEP is really just a
    formalization, refinement, and extension of the "fundamental presupposition
    of the historical natural sciences" as you put it. Apparently I can (in
    principle) simultaneously assert the RFEP and the Virgin Conception,
    Incarnation, Resurrection, etc. Do you know many people that actually
    maintain this *seemingly* strained position? I get the impression that
    Douglas is working with it.

    Now I should be able to contribute a slightly more informed view on how this
    idea impacts my understanding of "Life, the Universe and Everything" (to
    borrow a title).

    The first thing that raises an eyebrow is that it elevates the
    *methodological* principle of natural sciences to the status of a
    fundamental *ontological* principle. I personally think this is a big
    mistake that originates in the intuition that God is absent in the
    Universe - Science goes on just fine without God. But in my Life and
    Universe, God is active in Everything. On the one hand, He maintains the
    essentially deterministic world that follows natural laws, on the other hand
    He is entirely free to act within that world. The fact that Science doesn't
    detect Him is to be *expected* because Science is not able to detect free
    Agents who may or may not show up at the lab to mechanically repeat their
    behavior every time a scientist demands it of them. The scientific net
    catches only those things that can't help but repeat themselves.

    Our truly scientific ideas of how the universe works are confined to an
    extremely small subset of phenomena that are consistently repeatable.
    Individual actions by free Agents can not be predicted or regularly detected
    by Science, and so do not exist in a scientific explanation of reality. But
    God is totally free to part the clouds and let the sun shine down at the
    moment I pray for a sign. What lab is going to detect this "violation of
    natural law?" Even if some meteorologist detects it and notices that it
    *apparently* violated known laws given the prevailing conditions, all that
    will happen is that it will be tossed in the already bursting bin labeled
    "Scientific Anomalies." The real problem with the scientific world view is
    that people extend it to Life, the Universe, and Everything, when in fact it
    applies only to the stage props!

    Of course, I understand that the RFEP was designed with a caveat to allow
    for God as a Free Agent who acts at will in the world. But this seems
    motivated more as a concession to Christians than as a response to your
    intuition of how the Universe really is. Am I correct in this?

    In any case, given the fact that the RFEP explicitly allows for God to act
    in the Universe, I see no reason whatsoever to limit Him to
    non-form-conferring actions. But this then seems to contradict the

    It would seem therefore that a free God who confers form is actually
    *inconsistent" with the RFEP. Is this correct?

    Excellent chatting Howard. I recognize the value in your work. If nothing
    else, it helps clarify fundamental issues relating to Science and Religion.

    Finally, with regards to your question:

    > By the way, Richard, you have a habit of concluding
    > your messages with pious phrases like "In the service
    > of Christ who forms all." Do you intend to imply that
    > his puts you in a category different from the other
    > members of this list?

    Good question. I had mixed intents. In general, I like to end with my own
    little kerygma and often I would do it with a word play on whatever was the
    dominant theme of the note. I hadn't thought about it as seeming "pious" but
    the fact that it seemed such to you is sufficient proof that it can be
    interpreted that way. Of course, piety is not a bad thing for a Christian,
    but I do understand that *displayed piety* can be a horrendous thing. And if
    it unecessarily separates me from thee, I will henceforth desist.

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